Filth is exactly how it sounds. Filthy.  Grit stuck behind your teeth, dirt under your fingernails.  That itchy feeling when you have the strongest urge to go wash yourself in bleach.  These are all ways that can sum up the basic feeling, storyline and characters of Filth.  But the best part is?  It’s a damn great way to pass a couple of hours in a cinema.

Based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, Filth follows the life of Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy), an alcoholic, narcissistic, scheming and dodgy cop who is vying for the position of Detective.  Set in Scotland (heavy accents and all) around Christmas time (urinating Santas and all), his role is to lead the investigation of a Japanese man who was brutally murdered.

While Filth begins as a dark comedy, interlaced with flashbacks and imagined scenes, with McAvoy continually breaking the fourth wall to discuss his plan for his co-workers demise, as the film unravels, so too does Bruce Robertson and the overall storyline.  Whether this is due to a piece of excellent directing or sheer luck, it’s never fully determined, but it adds another dimension to the thick layers that make up this film.

What begins as the storyline of a corrupt cop who has an addiction to cocaine and a penchant for BDSM quickly spirals into the inner workings of a serious mental illness, the effects of grief and loss, and what can happen if a person is truly left alone.

From the outset, this shouldn’t have been an enjoyable film, but nevertheless I enjoyed it immensely.  While McAvoy’s character Robertson is the epitome of awful, or alas, filth (a double entrendre as it’s what the Scots call their police force), McAvoy plays the character perfectly.  Not only does he make his spiral into full-blown insanity believable, but he tiptoes the cusp of despicable and pathetic; so while he’s completely unlikeable, you still partially feeling a bit sorry for him.

The other standout feature of Filth was the writing – punchy, witty and very, very dark.  Granted it’s a film that will make your insides hurt a little (whether because it’s so vile, or because it’s so sad – that entirely depends on the individual), but at times it’s downright hilarious.  However, I do have a dark sense of humour so perhaps this film wouldn’t make most people laugh.

Furthermore, it was fast-paced, which is always excellent in a crime/murder type storyline.  Sure, their accents were so thick that I didn’t catch every third word, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to discover new lines in the next viewing (which ideally I will have).

Lastly, being a British film, the supporting cast was filled with familiar and wonderful faces.  Jim Broadbent plays a wonderfully psychotic psychiatrist and Shirley  Henderson as a cheating, flighty housewife.

While I wouldn’t recommend this film to everyone, considering it deals with pretty much every no-no in cinema (drugs, BDSM, sex and violence), for someone who appreciates gritty acting and an unconventional storyline, I’d suggest having a look.  Worst comes to worse, you can just watch Penelope afterwards to remind you that James McAvoy isn’t really that awful in real life.

Have you seen Filth or read anything by Irvine Welsh?  Are you a fan of Scottish accents?  Do you think it counts as a Christmas film?  Let me know!

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